Biomass and Solar PV Hybrid Minigrids for Off-Grid Farming Communities

Innovator (Country of Incorporation): 
Tanzania
Location Applied: 
Clean Energy Source: 
Agricultural Focus: 
Product Segment: 
Year of Award: 
Organization: 

Husk Power Systems (HPS) designs, installs, and operates biomass and solar photovoltaic (PV)-based power plants. HPS has partnered with Diamond Development Initiatives (DDI) in Nigeria, and Technology Management Group (TMG) in Ghana. DDI is a not-for-profit development service provider. TMG is an electrical contracting company that provides solutions for rural and urban electrification challenges.

Problem/Opportunity: 

Rural, off-grid communities in Ghana and Nigeria that rely on solar PV systems are limited in their hours of agricultural operations and access to electricity. Diesel generators and battery back-ups are expensive to operate, so operations are limited to a single shift.

Clean Energy Solution: 

Husk Power Systems builds, owns, operates, and manages a hybrid solution that combines a biomass gasification system with a solar photovoltaic (PV) system. Husk Power Systems’ solution allows access to electricity in rural, off-grid communities in Tanzania and Nigeria and extends the hours available for agricultural operations. The biomass plant uses a proprietary downdraft gasification technology that converts abundant agricultural residue, such as maize cobs, rice husks, coffee husks, and cotton stalks, into electricity. The system powers a mini-grid that produces electricity for residential, as well as agricultural, commercial, institutional, and industrial needs. The electricity is distributed to rural households and micro-enterprises through a mini-grid system—providing a higher quality, cheaper way to meet their needs for energy. Agricultural uses that will be powered include irrigation pumps, agro-processing mills, and drying and heating processes. Agricultural operations are able to continue processing during nighttime hours, while also providing cost effective power to customers during daytime with solar PV and night time with Biomass gasification system. 

Impact: 

The hybrid plant uses a combination of solar and biomass—both abundant resources in the communities selected for installation. Agricultural operations will be able to continue processing during nighttime hours, as the biomass plant will provide power when the solar PV system is not operating. Rural households will enjoy better quality, and cheaper electricity distributed through a mini-grid system. Husk Power is serving approximately 100 households and small businesses with their biomass gasification system. Customers have switched from kerosene- and diesel-powered systems to the Husk mini-grid. However, these customers demand access to reliable and 24/7 power, which is driving the efforts to convert these two sites to the hybrid mini-grid to meet customers’ aspirations. These hybrid sites will enable Husk Power Systems to provide cost effective power to customers during daytime with solar PV and night time with Biomass gasification system.

Progress Update: 

Husk Power Systems has installed 4 hybrid solar/biomass plants in Tanzania. Construction on the last three mini grid sites in Tanzania started in November. They provide 24/7 power, with a discounted tariff for daytime usage in order to pass on the cost benefits of the lower cost of power generation from solar PV. At each site, 3 professionals are trained to operate the systems. Husk’s systems currently use SparkMeter, a product developed as a spin-off of the work done by Powering Agriculture Innovator EarthSpark International. Husk Power Systems has legally registered a Nigerian subsidiary so that it can develop 3 sites within Nigeria itself, undertaken an in-depth market study and established a partnership with a Nigerian impact investor. The registration process will be completed in January of 2020. Husk is concurrently scouting potential mini grid site locations and plans to complete construction before November 2020. Procurement of major mini grid components (solar panels, inverters, batteries, and gasifiers) has been completed for each of the project’s ten sites.

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